With his voice still hoarse from the night's loss, Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff looked haggard as he explained the series of events that led to a 2-1 loss to his former club, Sporting Kansas City.
Wolff said that Captain Alex Ring's red card in the second half cost the match as they struggled to keep together without the glue of the team in the final 25 minutes of play.
"It took red to change... the whole dynamic of the game," Wolff said.
For the first 66 minutes of play, the club held onto a 1-0 white-knuckle lead after Jon Gallagher scored his first goal for the Verde and Black seven minutes after his first start for the team.
Gallagher's start for Austin marked the first time a striker scored for the new team as he replaced Danny Hoesen as the club's starter.
Austin FC were the new kids on the block against establishment team Kansas City, but they managed to control the pace of the match for much of the first half.
Wolff said the club effectively found Kansas City's weak spots in the first half of play.
"It was really clear that it was working exactly how we planned on it," Wolff said. "And we gave them a lot of problems."
Gianluco Busio, Kansas City's 18-year-old midfielder, very nearly tied it up several times as longtime KC defender Graham Zusi fed balls up to goal, but Austin FC kept that clean sheet alive thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Brad Stuver. Stuver saved the day with a two-handed block in the 32nd minute and kept it going as he ended the match with several saves to his credit.
Thanks partially to luck and partially to Kansas City's inability to finish, the Verde and Black went into the half with no goals given up. They seemed to find their tempo and were functioning like a well-oiled machine until the 67 minute, when Ring left the pitch with a deadly second yellow card. Ring, the glue of the club, would be out for the rest of the game.
Zusi, who was drafted with Austin FC's Matt Besler in 2009 and even lived in the Besler family home for their rookie season, consistently brought the ball up into threatening territory, and the left side suffered from a constant barrage of attacks at the hands of KC.
With ten men on the pitch, Wolff took the defensive route as he subbed in defender Julio Cascante for Gallagher. The move proved ineffective; Austin FC lost all offensive footing they had as they worked to keep Stuver protected at goal, but eventually the wall fell down as KC's Ilie Sanchez capitalized on the club's 11th corner kick to tie the match.
Just as regulation time ended, it was clearly Kansas City's match when the deciding goal flew past Stuver.
Ring's uncharacteristically reckless behavior and Wolff's decision to pump the brakes too soon ultimately cost Austin FC the match, and they fell to eighth in the Western Conference.
Wolff said the team hadn't trained to play with 10, but he didn't excuse the decisions that led to the loss.
"There's no excuses," Wolff said. "We haven't worked on playing with 10 men, we're in our infancy, and I'm sure going forward, we will."
Now, the club faces a new challenge heading into next week's match vs. LA Galaxy. Ring will still be out due to the two yellow cards, and the fledgling club will need to learn from a devastating half that saw the team's depth tested for the first time.
A new lineup may need to be drawn, but Wolff said the club will keep their characteristic intensity as they head to their fifth match on the road.
"We go on the road and we play the way we play, and we're going to try to push the tempo," Wolff said. "I don't think that's changing."
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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